WASHINGTON – In a major move that will advance the Bush Administration’s efforts to develop the world’s largest oil shale resource, the Department of the Interior has completed analysis on five oil shale research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects on public lands in Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
C. Stephen Allred, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, signed the Decision Records for the Environmental Assessments (EAs) for projects proposed by Chevron USA, Inc.; EGL Resources, Inc.; and Shell Frontier Oil & Gas, Inc., clearing the way for issuance of the 160-acre leases associated with each proposal.
“Our National and economic security depend on our developing domestic energy resources like the oil shale found in western Colorado,” Allred said. “These RD&D projects will allow us to test our belief that we have the knowledge and expertise to develop this resource effectively, economically, and with responsibility to the environment and to local communities.”
The Green River Formation, covering portions of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, holds the equivalent of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil – as much as the U.S. would use in 110 years, at current consumption levels, and three times the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. More than 70 percent of the Formation, including the richest and thickest oil shale deposits, lies under federally managed lands, giving the Interior Department a key role in determining how the resource is developed.
The Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed the EAs under the National Environmental Policy Act to examine each project’s potential impacts as well as the cumulative impacts of all five projects combined with other oil and gas development in the area. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was reached for each of the proposed projects.
Each FONSI is supported by extensive mitigation measures that will be added as stipulations to the RD&D leases. Before any on-site activities can begin, companies must submit detailed plans of development for approval and obtain all required local, state and federal permits to safeguard resources, such as air and water quality.
Allred noted the close cooperation among federal, state and local agencies and community partners during evaluation of the RD&D proposals. He said that all stakeholders will continue to play an integral role as the Department moves forward with oil shale development.